Archive for Playoffs
This thread will probably strike out with the bases loaded.
Hey, fellas, the opposing starter isn’t supposed to settle down after taking a line drive to the wrist on his pitching arm.
For the third time in the last seven years, the Yankees and Tigers will meet in a postseason series. The previous two meetings (2006 and 2011) were best-of-five ALDS matchups that ultimately ended the season for New York, but hopefully the switch to the best-of-seven ALCS will reverse that history. Getting eliminated by Detroit at home in Yankee Stadium last year left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, something the Bombers will have a chance to erase these next few days.
The Tigers got here by defeating the upstart Athletics in five games despite only scoring 17 runs in the series. Six of those came in Game Five, which was headlined by Justin Verlander’s complete game masterpiece. Unfortunately for Detroit, that game also means Verlander will not be available until Game Three of this series. With the first two games in the Bronx and the best pitcher in the world still two games away, jumping out to a fast start in the series doesn’t just seem like a good idea, it’s imperative. Here are the lineups…
CF Austin Jackson
2B Omar Infante
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Delmon Young
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
RF Avisail Garcia
C Gerald Laird
RHP Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45)
LHP Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87)
It’s chilly but an otherwise gorgeous day in New York, so weather won’t be a factor tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 8pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.
Ticket Update: If you want to catch any game in this series, either in New York or Detroit, make sure you check out RAB Tickets for some sweet last minute deals.
4:39pm: Girardi confirmed that Kuroda will indeed start Game Two tomorrow, and he’ll be followed by Phil Hughes in Game Three and CC Sabathia in Game Four (on normal rest) regardless of the series score. If there’s a Game Seven, I assume Sabathia would start on short rest.
Kuroda, 37, will be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career after throwing 105 pitches in Game Three of the ALDS on Wednesday. Pretty much the only other option was pulling long man David Phelps out of the bullpen. The Yankees added an extra reliever (Cody Eppley) to the roster today and will have Monday off, so there will be a full complement of relievers backing Kuroda up.
Because the Athletics pushed the Tigers to the full five games in the ALDS, it will be Doug Fister and not Justin Verlander on the mound in Game One of the ALCS tonight. Verlander threw a complete game in the Game Five win over the Tigers and will instead have to wait for Game Three to face the Yankees. That’s a break for New York, but Jim Leyland is still running a quality starting pitcher out there to open the series.
The Yankees actually drafted the 28-year-old Fister with their sixth round pick back in 2005, but the 6-foot-8 right-hander did not sign and instead returned to Fresno State for his senior season. The Mariners drafted him in the seventh round a year later and traded him to the Tigers at last season’s trade deadline. Fister made two starts* against the Yankees in last year’s ALDS, allowing six runs in 4.2 innings in Game One and one run in five innings in Game Five.
* Technically he pitched in relief of Verlander in Game One, which was suspended due to rain in the middle of the second inning. That whole thing was just a mess.
2012 Performance vs. Yankees
Fister dealt with an oblique injury (and a subsequent setback) early this season and it caused him to miss Detroit’s first two series against the Yankees, though he did pitch in that four-game series in Comerica Park in early-August. He left his start in line for the win, but Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez hit back-to-back homers off Joaquin Benoit in the eighth before Rafael Soriano pitched out of a first and third with no outs situation in the ninth. The Yankees had just started their second-half slide and I remember that win being a real nice lift.
Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)
Guys like Fister are basically 4.5-pitch pitchers, meaning a sinker-baller who will throw the occasional get-me-over four-seamer but not use it as a regular weapon. He’s very textbook in the sense that he’ll go sinker early in the count and offspeed late, especially against left-handers. Fister is huge and lanky, creating a lot of deception with his delivery and it makes his upper-80s sinker play up. The slider (mid-80s), changeup (low-80s), and curveball (mid-70s) sit right where you would expect them to. Fister has a generic repertoire but is very unique due to his size and deception, if that makes sense.
Performance & Results
For the first three seasons of his career, Fister was a pure ground ball guy who didn’t walk anyone and didn’t miss any bats. He reinvented himself a bit this season, his first full year with the Tigers, by throwing some more changeups and curveballs instead of just pounding away with the sinker. His overall walk rate (2.06 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%) remains phenomenal and he’s still getting a ton of grounders (51.0%), but now he’s striking out more batters than ever (7.63 K/9 and 20.4 K%). Grounders, strikeouts, and no walks sure is a great recipe for success.
As you can see from the table, Fister is really tough on right-handers. They have a hard time elevating the ball against him, but he will make the occasional mistake and let it be hit out of the park. Left-handers have an easier time getting the ball airborne, but Fister has been extra stingy with the free passes against batters on the other side of the plate. The Tigers have a very sketchy infield defense that has come back to bite the sinker-balling right-hander a few times this season, and the Yankees figure to have more lefties than righties in the lineup regardless of whether Alex Rodriguez starts. Part of me wonders if starting Brett Gardner would be a good idea given his left-handedness, his speed, and his ability to slap the ball on the ground and into that defense. Then again, he hasn’t started a game in over six months now.
I mentioned this morning that the Yankees really need to be patient and work the count against Detroit’s starter so they could get into that questionable bullpen as soon as possible, but that will not be easy against Fister. He ranked 25th out of 65 AL pitchers (min. 100 IP) with 3.74 pitches per batter faced this year, which is identical to Hiroki Kuroda for some perspective. The guy pounds the zone, so working the count is going to be tough.
The new playoff schedule has the Yankees playing five games in five days — spanning the final three games of the ALDS and the first two of the ALCS — which means they’ll have to do something creative for their Game Two starter tomorrow night. It’s not ideal but it is what it is, nothing anyone can do. Thankfully the Bombers have a number of viable options to start that game, some better and more practical than others. Joe Girardi indicated that he will announce his Game Two starter during his pre-Game One press conference this afternoon, but first let’s run through the candidates…
Hiroki Kuroda on three days’ rest
Kuroda started Game Three of the ALDS, the first of this five games in five days stretch. He threw 105 pitches across 8.1 innings on Wednesday and would have to start Game Two tomorrow on short rest, something he has never done in his MLB career. Considering his age (37) and how his career-high workload (219.1 IP) seemed to be catching up to him in September, starting Kuroda on three days’ rest seems like a risky proposition.
It’s worth noting that if the Yankees bring CC Sabathia back on short rest of Game Three (which I am absolutely in favor of doing) and do not pitch Kuroda in Game Two, he would get pushed back to Game Four and therefore only make one start in the series even if it goes the full seven games. That is not ideal at all. Kuroda is too good to limit like that.
Although he threw 27 pitches out of the bullpen on Thursday, it shouldn’t be a problem to bring Phelps back tomorrow. He started and threw 86 pitches last Tuesday, so giving the team 80 pitches if needed in the spot start doesn’t feel like too much to ask. Phelps shouldn’t worry anyone considering how well he closed out the season, with just six runs allowed in his final 21 innings. The problem here is that if the Yankees use him for the start, he won’t be available out of the bullpen until at least Game Four and maybe even Game Five. That could be problematic, especially if Joba Chamberlain‘s bruised elbow keeps him out of action for even just the first few games of the series.
Ivan Nova or Freddy Garcia
No offense to these two, but I don’t think I can make a decent case that either should start. Both pitched so poorly down the stretch that they lost their rotation spots late in the season, and it would be wishcasting to run either of them out there expecting a full 100-ish pitch start that gives the Yankees a chance to win. They are options because they’re stretched out and have experience in the postseason, but they’re more “break glass in case of emergency” options that anything else.
* * *
The Yankees announced earlier this morning that Cody Eppley took Eduardo Nunez‘s spot on the ALCS roster, giving the team a full 12-man pitching staff. That may be an indication that they’re leaning towards Phelps for the Game Two start but it’s not a guarantee; they could have easily added the extra reliever knowing both Kuroda and Sabathia will start on short rest and might not throw as many pitches as usual.
It’s worth noting that since Monday is a travel day, running through the entire bullpen in Game Two won’t be a concern since everyone is guaranteed rest the following day. It should also be a throw day for Phil Hughes, who could pitch in relief if needed. Bringing Sabathia back for Game Three means Phil would not start until Game Four on Wednesday at the earliest. Using him for an inning or two on Sunday has to be on the table.
The Yankees have replaced Eduardo Nunez on the ALCS roster with Cody Eppley, the team announced. Jayson Nix was moving fine in the ALDS, so his left hip flexor strain appears to be a non-issue going forward. The Tigers have a very right-handed pitching staff, so the extra righty bat wasn’t imperative. Joba Chamberlain is also on the roster despite the bruise on his right elbow after getting hit with a broken bat.
The addition of Eppley gives the Yankees a dozen pitchers and just a four-man bench, and could be an indication that David Phelps will get the Game Two start tomorrow. It could also mean they’re starting Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia on short rest in Games Two and Three, respectively, and want the extra arm in case they can’t throw as many pitches as usual. Who knows. Right now the only official pitching plan is Andy Pettitte in Game One tonight.
For the third time in the last four years, the Yankees are headed to the ALCS. CC Sabathia carried his teammates to the ALDS finish line against the Orioles, throwing a 121-pitch complete game in the Game Five win.
CCan’t Be Beat
The Yankees are paying Sabathia an awful lot of money for games like this. The Orioles had pushed them all season long, first for the division title and then in the ALDS, forcing a decisive Game Five in their first postseason series since 1997. Both offenses came into the game struggling in a major way, and it really felt like the first team to score would win. Sabathia made sure that would be his team.
The Yankees and Orioles traded perfect innings until (who else?) Nate McLouth slapped a single to left to open the fourth. Sabathia retired the next three batters without a problem, as he did following a leadoff walk to Matt Wieters in the fifth. Those were the only Orioles to reach base in the first seven innings, but the do or die moment(s) came in the eighth. The Yankees had a 3-0 lead (more on that in a bit), but a Wieters single and a five-pitch walk by Manny Machado brought the tying run to the plate with no outs.
Sabathia’s pitch count was a very manageable 89 at this point, but he started to leave some pitches up and out of the zone, particularly away to right-handers. That’s how he fell behind in the count 3-1 to Mark Reynolds, a hitter who was very capable of tying the game with one swing. CC pumped a fastball in the zone for foul before putting him away with a slider on the outside corner for strike three. That was one out. Lew Ford followed by slapping a single past a diving Derek Jeter at shortstop, scoring Wieters from second and again giving the Orioles first and second with one out.
Suddenly the game was very uncomfortable. The tying run was on-base, the go-ahead run was at the plate, and the season was on the line. Sabathia went to a 2-2 count on Robert Andino, who chopped a little grounder to the third base side of the mound. CC fielded the ball, look to the unoccupied third base (Eric Chavez had charged the ball), then fired to second for no out. Machado had beat the throw. The bases were loaded with one out and Baltimore’s best hitter — how messed up is it that McLouth was their best hitter? that’s just not cool — was at the plate.
Sabathia was laboring but Joe Girardi stuck with his ace to get the left-left matchup, and his faith was rewarded when CC struck out McLouth on four pitches. The fourth pitch was a wipeout slider down-and-away, Sabathia’s money maker. The Yankees escaped the jam one batter later as J.J. Hardy showed the world his Molina-esque speed — he hit a soft hopper to Jeter that I thought had infield single written all over it, but the Cap’n fired over to first to get Hardy by two full steps. Hard to believe a shortstop could be that slow.
Girardi elected to stick with Sabathia for another inning, and he fired off a perfect ninth inning for the complete game, the first of his postseason career. I don’t think the final line — 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K — actually does CC justice since he labored in exactly one inning. Outside of that eighth inning, the Orioles had two baserunners. Two. As has been the norm of late, Sabathia buried hitters with his offspeed stuff, throwing just 62 four-seam fastballs out of 121 pitches. Twenty-one of his 27 sliders went for strikes (!), including ten swings and misses (!!). Only 11 of his 22 changeups went for strikes, but he used it not necessarily to finish hitters off, but to get ahead in the count.
Sabathia was utterly dominant not just in Game Five, but in both of his ALDS starts. He struck out 16 and walked just three, allowing only a dozen hits. CC recorded 53 of the 54 possible outs in his two starts (!!!), setting a new ALDS record with 17.2 innings pitched. The previous record was 16, held by Justin Verlander (2012) and Cliff Lee (2010). The previous Yankees record was 15.2 by David Cone in the 1995 ALDS. Coincidentally enough, Cone threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. Sabathia was a monster for the Yankees in the biggest game of the season, continuing a stretch of pure dominance late in the season. What a stud. A true ace.
As I said earlier, both offenses were struggling in a big way coming into the game. Teams will take risks when they’re struggling to score runs, and for the Yankees that meant having Mark Teixeira steal a base. I’m not joking. Even with his bum calf and the best throwing catcher in the league behind the plate, Teixeira swiped second base with no outs after his leadoff single in the fifth. He was the team’s first baser-runner of the day.
The Orioles, of course, helped the Yankees out a bit. They were not holding Teixeira on first even though there were no outs, allowing him to take a nice big lead. He got a great jump and beat the throw without much of a problem. That’s basically what needs to happen for Teixeira to steal a base — the other team kinda has to forget about him. Raul Ibanez came through yet again as the next batter, plating the run with a ground ball single back up the middle. Teixeira chugged in without a throw and the Yankees were up 1-0 just like that.
Out Of The Infield
Since the entire series was close, I think the Yankees did our collective blood pressure a favor by tacking on an insurance run in the sixth inning. Jeter walked with one out then made it all the way home when Ichiro Suzuki ambushed a first pitch fastball from Jason Hammel. He clobbered the pitch off the wall in the right-center field gap, only the fourth ball he hit out of the infield in the series. Despite the bone bruise on his right foot, the Cap’n looked more than fine rounding the bases and had no trouble playing shortstop. After four tight and stressful games, the two-run lead felt like a 200-run lead.
The Grandyman Can
Through the first four games of the series, Curtis Granderson had a .180 OPS. Yes, OPS. He was flailing at everything and looking so lost at the plate that I wanted him benched. Girardi instead kept his 43-homer man in the lineup, and Curtis responded by going deep off left-hander Troy Patton in the seventh inning to make it a three-run lead. It was a bomb, landing several rows up the second deck in right. After the game, Granderson credited Ibanez for his five-pitch a-bat against Patton an inning prior, which gave him a sense of how he would be pitched. He homered on the same 2-1 slider that Ibanez fouled off. Raul does it all, eh?
McLouth very nearly hit a solo homer in the sixth inning, one inning after the Yankees took the lead. He yanked the ball right down the right field line, but it sailed just foul. The play was close enough that the umpires went to the instant replay system to confirm the call on the field. TBS then went up to that section of seats and asked the usher what he saw, which I found kinda funny. We can laugh now, but it definitely was no laughing matter at the time. I think we were all in “hold on for dear life” mode once they scored that first run.
Alex Rodriguez, obviously, sat the game out in favor of Chavez against the right-handed Hammel. Chavez went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and I thought it was pretty telling that Girardi opted to stick with Ibanez against the left-handed Patton with men on first and second with two outs in the seventh rather than pinch-hit with A-Rod. Raul struck out to end the inning, and I think the only thing that would have been more damning for Alex was if Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez got the call to pinch-hit instead. It’s kinda weird that both clubs had a member of the 600-homer club on the bench (the Orioles sat Jim Thome against Sabathia), something that I can’t imagine has happened before.
Granderson (2-for-3 with the homer) stole a base in that fifth inning as well, and I’m sure Wieters hasn’t had many two-steal innings in his relatively young career. He threw out 39% of base-stealers this season and the Orioles only allowed 63 steals as a team in 2012, by far the fewest among all AL clubs. Granderson didn’t score, but it goes to show how aggressive the Yankees were going to be as two of the first three players to reach base tried to steal (and succeeded).
The Yankees only had five hits overall — Teixeira’s single, Ibanez’s single, Granderson’s single, Ichiro‘s double, and Granderson’s homer — but they also drew three walks (Jeter, Ichiro, Teixeira). Nick Swisher (0-for-3), Robinson Cano (0-for-4), and Russell Martin (0-for-3) contributed nothing offensively. The first dozen Yankees to bat made outs, but eight of the final 18 (.444 OBP) reached base. Let’s hope that late-inning success is an indication that the offense is starting to wake up.
Just to tie a bow on it all, the pitching staff finished the series having allowed just ten runs in 51 total innings (1.76 ERA). They struck out 42 and walked just eight batters. The Orioles scored more than two runs just once, and that was the three they scored in Game Two. Sabathia’s Game Score (82) was the best by a Yankee since Roger Clemens’ gem in Game Two of the 2000 World Series. The pitching staff was on point all series, what a job by those guys.
Box Score & WPA Graph
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights. Believe it or not, this is the first time the Yankees have beaten a non-Twins teams in the ALDS since beating the Athletics back in 2001. Nice to have that monkey off the back. The Bombers are 11-3 all-time in the ALCS, which honestly surprised me. Better than being 3-11 though, so I’ll take it.
Rest? There’s no time for rest. The Yankees and Tigers kick off the ALCS on Saturday night, when Andy Pettitte gets the ball against Doug Fister. Both pitchers will be on regular rest (actually more in Fister’s case). That game is scheduled to start at 8:07pm ET.
There’s your run, CC.
So it all comes down to this. The Yankees and Orioles have been separated by more than one run for a total of six outs this series, playing four incredibly tight games that were more “oh my goodness they keep blowing opportunities” than “holy cow what a great game!” You know what I mean. Outside of the ninth inning of Game One and Raul Ibanez, this series hasn’t been a banner “let’s make some more fans!” exhibition for the game.
Anyway, by now you all know the story. Both teams are struggling so much offensively that they only have two players who can not be considered automatic outs each — Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the Yankees, Nate McLouth and Manny Machado for the Orioles. Everyone else has been flailing away, running into bad luck, or some combination of both. CC Sabathia needs to come out and dominate like he did in Game One and the offense … I mean, they just have to wake up. What more can you say? Here are the lineups…
LF Nate McLouth
SS J.J. Hardy
CF Adam Jones
RF Chris Davis
C Matt Wieters
3B Manny Machado
1B Mark Reynolds
DH Lew Ford
2B Robert Andino
RHP Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43)
LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38)
It’s not the most picturesque of days in New York, but the weather will not be a factor tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07pm ET and the game can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.